A Lib Dem mayor would help London’s lowest-paid get to work

Mayoral candidate Caroline Pidgeon shares her vision for transport in the capital

 

It is very easy to forget how neglected London’s transport infrastructure was just 30 years ago.The lack of safety for passengers symbolised everything that was wrong.

In 1987 26 people were killed in the Kings Cross fire. Incredibly it took this tragedy to ensure that wooden escalators were finally replaced on the London Underground. A year later in 1988, 35 people were killed at the Clapham Rail collision. And in 1989 six people died in the Purley rail disaster.   

There was no Tramlink back then, nor were there the eleven tube stations on the Jubilee Line east of Green Park that everyone now takes for granted. Even the new Docklands Light Railway was much smaller than it is today.

I say all this not to be complacent about the current state of transport in London – in fact much needs to change – but instead to highlight that real progress can be made in a relatively short time.

However, underlying all these changes was a steady stream of investment.

It is for this reason that I think some honesty is needed about fares, especially as within a few years TfL will be facing the permanent loss of £700m per year in state subsidy.

Freezing all fares over many years might sound incredibly attractive, but it is ultimately an uncosted policy. No one knows what it will really cost, as no one knows what inflation will be in three or four years time.  

What is certain is that cutting investment in our transport infrastructure would be disastrous. Yet that could well be the only option available to ensure fares are frozen over four years.

I instead advocate no rises in any fares above inflation and targeted cuts for some fares.

As London mayor, I would introduce half price fares before 7.30 am for any journey on TfL rail services (Tube, DLR, London Overground) for anyone using Oyster PAYG or contactless payment

London’s economy is served by many low-paid workers, such as cleaners and security staff, who often get to work long before other people. Half price travel for any journey made before 7.30am would directly benefit many of London’s lowest-paid employees.

The policy also has wider benefits as it will encourage some people to start their journeys at an earlier time. Overcrowding, especially on the Tube, is already a massive issue.    .   

I have also long advocated a 1-hour bus ticket, and it is great to see other candidates unashamedly stealing the idea.

These policies are realistic and can be funded through simple steps, such as not funding the Garden Bridge and cancelling plans for the disastrous Silvertown road tunnel.

My fares policies will not put at risk the much needed investment that is still needed in London’s transport. We still need to ensure that Tube upgrades continue, that the Bakerloo Line is extended into south east London, and extend the tram to both Sutton and Merton. Pushing ahead with Crossrail 2 is also necessary.

Indeed, investment in transport is so desperately needed in London that I would seek to find new sources of funding.

I would for example introduce a Workplace parking levy on employers in central London and Canary Wharf, helping to fund new transport schemes such as a much needed pedestrian and cycling bridge linking Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf and the expansion of the cycle hire scheme.

We also need to make far better use of the Congestion Charge. To help tackle London’s appalling air pollution I would immediately introduce an extra levy on diesel vehicles. The Congestion Charge rates should also vary, with much higher levels paid for by motorists driving at peak times.

Some of my other specific transport policies include:

  • Total opposition to a third Heathrow Runway.   
  • Taking full advantage of bringing commuter rail travel under TfL’s control – increasing the number of Tube stations with step free access and ensuring that no Tube lift is ever closed due to a lack of trained staff
  • Making London a far more attractive city for pedestrians and cyclists, starting with pedestrianising Oxford Street and extending Holland-style cycling infrastructure to the whole of London.   

More information on my views on cycling can be seen at the London Cycling Campaign and the Stop Killing Cyclists websites

Finally, TfL itself needs a shake up.  

At a senior level it is far too pale and male. TfL must embrace the widest range of talent if the transport challenges facing the capital are to be met.

Caroline Pidgeon is the leader of the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Group, and is the Liberal Democrat candidate for mayor of London

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